The Département des Ardennes (08), is in northeastern France and borders on Belgium. The north of the department lies at the western end of the range of wooded hills that give it its name; the Meuse flows through the northeast, and the Aisne westwards across the south.
Before 1790 its lands were part of the province of Champagne & Brie, but earlier, in the middle ages, there had been several small counties and lordships, the largest of which was the County of Rethel. The Meuse region was a border zone between the Empire and France; Sedan only became fully part of France in 1641.
Its northeastern sector was the scene of the catastrophic entrapment of the armies of Napoleon III in 1870 and of the breakthrough across the Meuse at Sedan in 1940. After the Armistice in 1940 the department was in the zone occupied by German troops and lay in the zone inderdite, the zone to which those who had fled as refugees during the 1940 campaign were forbidden to return, the zone earmarked for future German settlement. In 1941 the Vichy régime placed it under the Regional Prefect at Laon (Aisne) for police and economic matters.
Since 1960, the department has belonged to the Champagne-Ardenne region.
Its capital is Charleville-Mézières. The sub-prefectures for the other arrondissements are Rethel (in the southwest), Vouziers (southeast) and Sedan (northeast). Rocroi, in the north, was also a sub-prefecture until 1926. Sedan also ceased to be a sub-prefecture in 1926 but was restored in 1942. The town also acted as the seat of the Bishop, 1790-1802, but since then the department has belonged first to the diocese of Metz, and, since 1822, to the archdiocese of Reims.